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The King's Rifle by Biyi Bandele

The King's Rifle (2010)

by Biyi Bandele

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Deep in the jungles of Burma, during World War II a select group of soldiers called Chindits, plied their method of warfare against the invader. Several of these troops were made up of African soldiers, mostly from the country of Nigeria. Their average age was somewhere between sixteen and nineteen, although some were a lot younger. In fact, the main character of Burma Boy was barely fourteen, a fully fledged member of the Thunder Brigade whose basic orders were to exist behind enemy lines and create havoc.

Author Biyi Bandele based his book partly on the stories passed onto him by his father who served in Burma during WW II. Patrolling jungle trails, setting ambushes, and living in defended strongholds, these Chindits fought the Japanese in hand-to-hand combat, killing and being killed. It was a very personal war for them and they relished their chance to fight for King Joji {King George).

I believe the author caught the elements of warfare accurately. The story veers between the downtimes when the soldiers joke, laugh and sometimes argue with each other while they catch up on sleep and eating. Then the action begins and the characters are tossed into tense, terror filled situations against a ruthless enemy who never surrenders. Added to this is the setting of hot, humid Burma where it’s torrential rains and/or burning sun creates additional stress and exhaustion. A fascinating look at a small corner of World War II that I had previously known nothing about. And although at times I found the author’s style a little aimless, overall he managed the contrast between the light-hearted banter of boys to the grim life and death situations they had to face admirably. I did, however, have a slight problem with the abrupt ending, feeling that so much more could have been told of this soldier’s story. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Nov 1, 2012 |
Like a short, easy to read African Catch-22.
  kfschmid | Jan 5, 2011 |
Biyi Bandele (1967-) is an award-winning playwright who was born in Nigeria and currently lives in London. He has also written four novels, including The King's Rifle, which was originally published as Burma Boy in 2007 in the UK.

The King's Rifle is a historical novel about black African soldiers who served in World War II in the Burma Campaign against the Japanese. The characters are based on actual participants in the war, based on Bandele's research and on the stories told by his father, who served in the Burma Campaign.

The main character is a 13 year old Nigerian boy, Ali Banana, who lies about his age and manages to get enlisted for battle with his older friends. He contracts chicken pox, and instead of going off with his friends, he is sent to fight with the Chindits, a legendary British Special Forces unit founded by General Charles Wingate, who makes a striking appearance early in the book. His unit, made up of Nigerians commanded by Sergeant Damisa, a father like figure to his young charges, is sent to Burma to fight alongside British Army and British Indian Army forces. The units meet at White City, a stronghold that the Japanese attempt to reacquire. The young men must grow up quickly, as their training has been meager and they don't receive much support or respect from their British and Indian colleagues. The fortress is relentlessly attacked by swarms of Japanese forces, and the Chindits are provided with very little outside support, which begins to take its toll on them.

This is an enjoyable story of an unfamiliar piece of military history, with engaging characters and rapid fire action. ( )
  kidzdoc | May 17, 2009 |
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Jag fick geväret och gick igenom det medan jag funderade på hur mycket männen visste om vapen.
"Vem vill vara först?"
"Jag!" utbrast menige Ali Banana.

- James Shaw, "The March Out"
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Denna bog tillägnas de 500 000 soldaterna från Royal West African Frontier Force och The King's African Rifles som tjänstgjorde tillsammans med de allierades trupper under andra världskriget.

Den tillägnas också minnet av min far, Solomon "Tommy Sparkle" Bamidele Thomas, en "Burma Boy" vars historier om krig i djungeln fortfarande ringer i mina öron.

Och den tillägnas min son Korede och min dotter Temi.
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En kvävande het dag, då kriget pågått i två år och Kairos vanligtvis så livligt trafikerade genomfartsleder låg praktiskt taget öde, vacklade en mager, ovårdad engelsman fram genom stadens mörka gränder och basarer.
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One of the young African men in this WWII novel is so proud of his new military boots that he hangs them by the laces around his neck and starts a fashion trend in his village, providing one of many powerful and poignant images that fill Bandele's distinctive first novel. The story chronicles the Chindits, a band of African soldiers enlisted by the British military and sent to Burma to fight the Japanese. Among them is Farabiti Banana, a 14-year-old Nigerian who becomes a soldier to follow the lead of his friends and hopes the military will make him a man. Once out of training, life becomes increasingly dangerous for Banana and his eight fellow Chindits, and by the novel's climax, he's become a man, but at a great cost. Bandele favors a straight-ahead style fueled by imagery and wordplay, and his perspective on heavily traveled literary territory is refreshing and even endearing.… (more)

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